FOUR years of waiting finally ended for Chester City on Saturday when they clinched the Nationwide Conference championship and with it won the prize of a return to the Football League next season.

It was an emotional day at a packed Deva Stadium which erupted in to a glorious cacophony of joy at the end of a nerve-wrenching 90 minutes of football.

The crowd stayed around long into the evening to celebrate and enjoy the triumph and the officials of the Nationwide Conference played their part in the festivities by secretly bringing the champion-ship trophy and winners' medals with them and presenting them to the players and management after the match.

City manager Mark Wright, who has performed miracles at the Deva Stadium since he took over the managerial role two and a half years ago, summed up the feelings of everybody when he said: "This is a big achievement for the players, the board and for the club. I will remember and cherish this moment for a very long time.

"We have shown a character and team spirit this season that has been a credit to the players and we have deservedly taken the credit."

Wright's three seasons have been a rollercoaster since he took over a Chester side facing relegation from the Conference in January 2002. In the remaining four months of the campaign he lifted the side from the abyss and into a respectable mid-table positions.

In his next season, he took the club into the play-offs only to be cruelly beaten on penalties by the eventual winners Doncaster Rovers in the semi-final. Then this season, he has clinched the ultimate prize, which will surely see him canonised by the long-suffering Deva faithful.

Saturday's league clincher against Scarborough was a tense and nervy affair, with the priceless winning goal coming from City's ex-Scarborough striker Daryn Stamp after 19 minutes.

Chester were the first into their stride when Daryl Clare brought out a good save from Walker with a close-range effort.

The ball had been delivered to the league's leading scorer by Guyett, who had headed a McIntyre free-kick goalwards.

Twiss had a couple of good runs from midfield, but both were thwarted on the edge of the area by Rose and Kelly respectively.

The former Manchester United starlet had the ball in the visitors' net after 16 minutes, but the strike was ruled out because of a push by Stamp in the build-up.

However, three minutes later Stamp made amends when he scored what turned out to be the winning goal.

Clare was the orchestrator, hurtling down the left flank and crossing low towards the near post where Hotte should have cleared

the ball. However the defender allowed it to slip under his foot and Stamp did the rest, side-footing into the far corner from a acute angle.

The Yorkshiremen then brought out gasps from the home congregation when they grazed the City post after 25 minutes, Gill's effort beating Turner's dive but fortunately hitting the post and going for a goal kick.

After the break City were forced into a double sustitution, Harris and Elam coming on for the injured Twiss and Collins. The visitors sensed a chink in City's armour and had chances through Hack-worth and Kelly but both went wide of the mark much to Chester's relief.

In injury time, Hackworth broke free and fired goalwards but Turner dealt competently with the thunderous effort.

After three minutes of added time the official blew his whistle and everybody in the packed stadium realised that the four years of non-League football were over.

As they say adieu to the Nationwide Conference, Chester are already preparing for life in the Football League.

Within a hour of the final whistle on Saturday City chairman Stephen Vaughan said: "We intend to go on a win more titles. There is no reason why we can't emulate the successes that Doncaster Rovers have achieved this season.

"When the dust has settled, I will sit down with my manager and we will plan for the future and strengthen the squad where we need the strengthen."

CHESTER CITY: Turner, Collins (Elam, 57), Bolland, Guyett, McIntyre, Carden, Davies, Heard, Twiss (Harris 46), Clare, (Rapley 71), Stamp. Subs: Lane, Woods.

Att: 5987

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